Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack
Country:United States Of America


Early life and career: The Valentinos
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Womack was the third of five boys born to Friendly, Sr. and Naomi Womack in a housing project. Taking after their gospel-singing father, Womack and his four brothers Friendly, Jr., Cecil, Harry and Curtis formed The Womack Brothers and began touring the gospel circuit. One night, soul singer Sam Cooke spotted the Womack Brothers performing and immediately began seeking the group out for a record deal. Signing with SAR Records, Cooke's own imprint, they eventually agreed to leave the gospel circuit for a career in secular music and the group was renamed as the Valentinos. Shortly afterward, they scored their first charted single, "Lookin' For a Love", which peaked at number eight on the national R&B chart. In 1964, they scored a second hit with "It's All Over Now". The latter song was written by Womack and would give the singer monetary royalties after The Rolling Stones' cover of "It's All Over Now" hit the top of the UK singles chart. The Valentinos' career dwindled after the tragic death of Cooke in December 1964. The group stayed together for a year and a half before splitting up in 1966. They reformed in the late 60's and recorded a few songs for Jubilee Records in the early 70's , appearing on Soul Train in 1973. Womack struggled to get noticed in the music industry and secluded himself as a session musician.

He loves his family dearly and his family has a history of singers...

Early solo career: sideman
As a session guitarist, Womack worked at producer Chips Moman's American Studios in Memphis, and played on recordings by Joe Tex and The Box Tops. Until this point, around 1967, he had had little success as a solo artist, but at American he began to record a string of hit singles, including 1968's "What Is This" (his first chart hit), "It's Gonna Rain" and "More Than I Can Stand". During this period he became known as a songwriter, contributing many songs to Wilson Pickett's repertoire, these include "I'm in Love" and "I'm a Midnight Mover." He also applied guitar work on three of Aretha Franklin's hit-making late 1960s recordings, including Lady Soul, where he played guitar on Franklin's hit, "Chain of Fools". Among his most well-known works as a session musician from this period, his appearance as guitarist on Sly & the Family Stone's 1971 album There's a Riot Goin' On and on Janis Joplin's Pearl, which features a song by Womack and poet Michael McClure entitled "Trust Me". In 1971, on an album with jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo, he introduced his song "Breezin'", which later became a hit for George Benson.

Solo stardom
In 1968, Womack signed with Minit Records and put out his first charted single, "What Is This" in 1968, following that up with "It's Gonna Rain", "More than I Can Stand", a soul-infused cover of Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" and his bluesy rendition of The Mamas and Papas' "California Dreamin'", which gave him his first top 50 pop single.

After moving to the United Artists label in 1971, he released the album Communication, scoring the hit "That's The Way I Feel About Cha", which became his first Top 40 single in 1972.

His follow-up album, Understanding, featured his original rendition of the single "I Can Understand It", which later became a funk hit for the Detroit-based band New Birth, and the Top 10 R&B hit, "Harry Hippie", loosely based on Womack's late brother Harry, who died two years after the song was recorded. Understanding also yielded his first R&B number one single with "A Woman's Gotta Have It", later to be covered by James Taylor in 1976, returning the favor of having Womack cover his seminal single, "Fire and Rain". In 1973, Womack wrote, produced and recorded the soundtrack album to Across 110th Street, with its title track becoming another successful hit for Womack.

In 1974, Womack reached the pinnacle of pop success when his remake of his old 1962 Valentinos single, "Lookin' for a Love" reached the Top 10 of the pop singles chart. Later hits included the funk singles "Check It Out" and "Daylight" and the single, "You're Welcome, Stop On By", later covered by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. After 1976, few of Womack's songs hit the charts as he dealt with creative difficulties with his record labels. He left United Artists at the end of 1976, and fell out of favor with R&B audiences by the end of the 1970s.

In 1981, he made a comeback with the release of The Poet, which included his Top 10 R&B hit, "If You Think You're Lonely Now". Womack gained a sizable European fan base which grew with the release of 1984's The Poet II, which included the top ten R&B duet with Patti LaBelle titled "Love Has Finally Come at Last". In 1985, he scored his final Top 10 R&B single with "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much".

Jodeci's K-Ci Hailey, a notable admirer of Womack's work, covered "If You Think You're Lonely Now" in 1994. Hailey again covered Womack in 2006 with his rendition of "A Woman's Gotta Have It". The song is referenced in Mariah Carey's song "We Belong Together", a number-one hit in June 2005. Carey sings "I can't sleep at night / When you are on my mind / Bobby Womack's on the radio / Singing to me: 'If you think you're lonely now.'"

Film director Quentin Tarantino used "Across 110th Street" (which, in a different version, had been the title song of the 1972 movie) in the opening and closing sequences of his 1997 film Jackie Brown. His work has been used in several other popular films, including Meet the Parents (2000), Ali (2001) and American Gangster (2007). A 2003 Saab commercial used Womack's interpretation of "California Dreamin'". In 2005, "Across 110th Street" appeared in the hit Activision video game True Crime: New York City.

In 2008, Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child recorded her own version of his R&B hit "Daylight" with Travis McCoy of the Gym Class Heroes, which became a hit in the UK, where it was previously released as a single by Womack in 1976.

In March 1965, just three months after Sam Cooke's murder, Womack created scandal by marrying Cooke's widow, Barbara Campbell. Womack claimed he married her for fear that, if she were left alone, she would "do something crazy". They divorced in 1970.

Womack's younger brother, Cecil, married Cooke and Campbell's daughter Linda. The controversy derailed Womack's career for some time. Womack and Linda Campbell collaborated on the hit song "Woman's Gotta Have It" and he applied background vocals for his brother and Linda as the pair teamed up as Womack & Womack.

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